Bars stay shut as sales go flat
A RETURN to the days when pubs were also the grocer, undertaker or post office, could be imminent as sales continue to fall.
The Vintners' Federation of Ireland claims more and more bars are switching their opening times from 10.30am to 4pm, in an effort to stay in business. And publicans are increasingly looking to other areas to make money from their property when pints aren't being pulled.
"There's not enough business -- simple as that," VFI president Paul Stevenson said yesterday. "People are not drinking during the day and that's down to lifestyle changes and the fact that there's cheap drink at home, so they're drinking there."
Combined with higher wage costs for bar workers, the changing attitude towards drinking during the day and stricter drink-driving laws mean that it's not financially viable for some pubs to open early. The VFI said that over 1,000 pubs have closed across the country in the past three years, and publicans are being forced to diversify in order to stay afloat.
"Hopefully, we have reached a plateau on the closures, but in many rural areas and other areas pubs just don't find it economic to open in the day, so they just open in the evening when they have customers," Mr Stevenson said.
"What will have to happen at some stage is that a pub will be a pub during the evening, but you'll have different offerings during the day. There are lots of ideas on that, one of which would be an internet cafe type of business.
Drinkers are increasingly likely to visit an off-licence rather than a pub, particularly during the week. And drinking at home has become an increasingly-popular option because of the availability of cheap alcohol in supermarkets and in the wake of the smoking ban.
According to the VFI, many publicans believe that there is now little point in opening during the day unless their business has a reputation for good food.
And Mr Stevenson claimed that some pubs will be forced to open solely at weekends if business continues to fall off.